Organization and Decluttering Troubles

Updated on January 24, 2012
J.K. asks from Phoenix, AZ
17 answers

This sounds so silly but I'm totally serious. I'm having trouble decluttering and organizing my house. If you came over, you'd say "this isn't bad." My house is clean and pretty much clutter free in the open but my closets, drawers, dressers, cupboards etc. are a mess. You need to stand back when opening things in my house or something may fall on you. When I try to declutter, I have so much trouble. I can't think straight, I'm afraid to get rid of things and it's overwhelming and I give up. Is there an easy and fast way to do this? I've always been this way and it drives hubby nuts but now that it's starting to drive me crazy too, I want to change....but I can't. Thoughts? Advice? Sympathy? LOL Thanks so much!!

I've been doing flylady for years but not the closets etc. I don't know why.

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answers from Washington DC on

I hired an organizer. She has bins for donate, keep and trash. I could probably do the same thing on my own but for some reason I can't unless I am paying someone to stand over me.

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answers from Beaumont on

Great advice. The only other thing I might suggest is to have an "organized" friend come over and get you started. It helps to have the support to get started, especially, if you've had this pattern going on for a long time. Good luck! You can do it!

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answers from Columbia on

Do just one closet per weekend. Start this upcoming weekend. Pick a closet and make that closet your Saturday morning project. You'll feel great about it all weekend. :-)

Go through that one closet thoroughly and trash, sell, donate or PUT AWAY every item in that closet. If you've not used it in over a year, get rid of it.

Give everything a "home."

If the home for a specific item is going to be in one of the other closets that haven't been organized yet, that's OKAY! Just take it there and stuff it in. It'll be there when you get to it on that particular closet's weekend.

Next weekend, pick another closet (or drawer). Keep going until they're all done. DO NOT try to do them all at once (or you'll be overwhelmed).

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answers from Cleveland on

Silly Mzkitty, that's exactly what Flylady is.

I struggle with decluttering too. It helps me think of it as peeling layers off an onion. start with the really easy stuff. Stuff that is broken or actual garbage, then tackle the harder stuff like duplicates, or stuff you haven't used in a while.

It also helps if you are benevolent. I like alot. people can ask for items and if you have it you can contact them and fulfill their wishes, Very Fairy Godmother like.
It is also great because you can offer your own items and feel satisfaction that someone will actually be using it, ex: puzzles your kids have outgrown go to a lady with 3 kids who love puzzles Bam it's Christmas for them and Now you have more room in your closets.

If freecycle isn't your thing maybe an organization like goodwill or a church rummage sale collection might motivate you.

selling stuff never ever works out, it's better just to give it away and be happy.

Challenge yourself to find 3 things from your closet to donate to the charity that helps underprivelaged women dress for job interviews.

Or donate all your maternity clothes to the young family down the street expecting their first baby.

That's how to get it out of your house and not have a break down.

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answers from Chicago on

Try starting small, and picking one goal. For example, I needed to clean out my dresser so I did it one drawer at a time. It took an entire week! But I did it!

If you have a closet, start with one shelf, or 1/2 a shelf! If you have 1/2 a shelf done, it's better than before you started!

And definitely get a friend to come over! Not only does conversation make the task more fun, but your friend can convince you to get rid of stuff she knows you won't wear, shouldn't wear, or don't need. Then when you're done, treat yourselves to dinner. And don't forget to go over to her house to do the same! I had my friend come over and she convinced me to get rid of every single flannel shirt I owned. This was 2003, and it was 5 years after college and 5 years after flannel shirts went out of style. I don't miss any of those flannels (or the big pile of other college stuff she made me get rid of) and I was thankful for her help!

I convinced her to get rid of a big pile of scrapbook paper and stickers she wasn't going to use. We took it over to the local school and donated it, and both of us were so excited to see how happy they were! The kindergarteners sent her a thank-you note using the supplies.

Good luck! Sometimes friends can see what we can't :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

You have great advice. One more little tip that helps me is to MOVE all the stuff OUT of the space I'm clearing. It helps SO much. So, if I'm targeting one closet:

I literally clear EVERYTHING OUT of the closet until every shelf is EMPTY before I start sorting. I put all the stuff in a huge mountain or in several big boxes on my bed. Then I sort each item from there, putting ONLY what I want to keep neatly folded back into the closet until my bed is clear. MOST of the stuff ends up in the trash or donate boxes/bags, and like 1/4 of it actually goes back into the closet. Some stuff is better off other places in the house. But you never stuff everything BACK in the closet, so it's the best way. I absolutely cannot stand and sort a cluttered closet. I get nowhere. But if it's empty, I can sort and re-stock the contents.

I do the same with drawers or any problem area. Empty it out onto the bed (or a table top), and sort from there.

If I have several problem areas at once, like a few closets, some bathroom shelves and some junk drawers all out of sorts at once, I make a list of all the "problem areas" and do a schedule over the next two weeks to do ONE area every couple of days. Each area really only takes an hour or two tops, so by doing only one every couple of days, I'm never overwhelmed.

I have the same challenge as you though because sometimes a year will go by where I haven't sorted and purged anything, including gifts and outgrown stuff from three kids, and we still have things we moved into the house with we never got rid of in the basement. So like you, my house looks tidy to others, but has it issues. But when I AM motivated and on top of things, this method works, and the de-cluttered spaces don't tend to fill back in, we just have a lot of space and some areas that were never de-cluttered.....

Make a list of every drawer and cupboard and closet that needs clearing. Designate ONE every few days in a realistic schedule when you know you will be home and have an hour to do it. Once it's done, it's done. Some days you'll feel industrious and do two. By the end of Feb, your house could easily be cleaned out-or at least much better.

And FORGIVE YOURSELF! ALL of my neat freak friends with immaculate organized houses, do this CONSTANTLY. Literally they purge and de-clutter every single week and sort as they go each day (BEHIND their cleaning ladies as they work). Not everyone is wired that way. It's OK! We have other good traits. :)

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answers from Minneapolis on

Hire an organizer. Maybe you need someone else to help you call the shots.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Tackle one clutter mess at a time. I would suggest sorting your clutter into different clutter plastic sweater boxes so that everything is contained. If you can commit more than just that, try making three piles: must keep, might keep, got to go. It helps with the transition.

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answers from Phoenix on

I haven't read the whole book, or even followed the steps it called for, but I got really motivated by the book "Unstuff Your Life!" by Andrew Mellen. Just reading the first couple of chapters has helped me let go of a lot of things. He addresses the emotional reasons we keep things and helps you realize you don't need the "stuff". Good luck!

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answers from Phoenix on

Flylady stresses me out too much, I can't do it. And I do sympathize with you...What has helped me was to do a little at a time. Don't think of cleaning the entire closet in one sitting, it will just overwhelm you and you won't do any of it. But just think "I'm going to do one shelf, or drawer". And thats it! Once you do that, you may think, hhhmmm...maybe I'll do another one...if you do, great! If not, then do that one tomorrow. Eventually it will get done. Now, for the "I might need that..." You won't!!! You have to ask yourself if you LOVE it and if not, get rid of it. If its something that is easily replaced and you are just "storing" it in "case" you need it, then get rid of it! I held on to boxes and boxes of office supplies because they are expensive and I didn't want to buy them again. But in reality, how many boxes of staples can a normal person go thru? And God forbid, if I have to buy another box, I can't spend $3??? So once I "got it", it really helped to let stuff go. And yes, there are times when I think, dang, I need a binder and 3 months ago I have about 30 of them to Goodwill...oh well! I'll just go back to Goodwill and buy one for $ much better than having all the boxes shoved in the garage for "what if". So baby steps has really helped me and I feel so much better! You can do it, just start it and it will get easier. Good luck!!!

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answers from Houston on

When we moved into our house, we clutter busted as part of the move. Here's what worked for us. Ruthlessly I went room by room, drawer by drawer and bit by bit. Slow and steady wins the race in my opinion. I would place one large black trash bag, one cardboard box and one plastic stoarge bin near where I was working. Trash automatically went in the trash bag. With almost no thought I sorted 'donate' (cardboard box) and 'keep' (plastic bin). If we had to think about any item, I applied criteria like the following. Automatic donate pile: if it hasn't been used in 6 months/1 year; upgraded to better model, lost interest if a hobby, etc. Another key criteria, any kept item has to have a home, i.e., some place it will be at all times with like items. If it doesn't have a home, then you don't need it.

We tell ourselves the following to break the habit of keeping things for the sake of keeping them. It is selfish to keep a thing you don't use. If you donate it, then you are giving someone else the opportunity to find joy, love, and/or need met by your old item. Who doesn't like helping/making someone else happy, right?

Don't overthink while you clutter bust. Remind yourself the purpose is to gain freedom, peace of mind, clear room in your lives/home and to give to others who need or want you donated items. Good luck.

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answers from Houston on

How about having your husband help you? Pick a closet one weekend and go through it with him, if not for help with heavy lifting, but also for the moral support.

Say you decide to throw something away you think you won't find useful or aren't really sentimental abouit it...he could help you decide whether to keep it or not, and he might even walk these things to the trash so you don't have to do it.

2 heads are better than 1!

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answers from Lansing on

I have found when I want to "downsize" It is best if I'm angry about the clutter (mess). If I go in mad it's like nope don't need this or this or this. Then I take it all to Goodwill asap! On things I catch myself "debating" on I'll ask myself "when was the last time you really used this?" If longer than a couple of months bye bye. I also have to remind myself "things" are not ALIVE! It will not hurt your dead aunt if you get rid of the stuffed animal she gave to you when you were 9. Memories are memories not things. At first my family (husband and 4 kids) were horrified...but once they got used to the clean closets and house that wasn't crammed full of stuff they now will downsize their rooms too. It is one of the best things I have ever done for my family...less clutter... less stress...less mess. Good Luck!

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answers from New York on

You are ahead of the game because it drives your husband nuts. See it
does not bother mine. He does not like to throw out. Like you my house
looks fine, clean, but oh those closets and drawers oy. My husband and I
are in our 60s and I am always telling my husband, if God forbid anything
happens to us, the kids will curse us. We have a four bedroom colonial and
have been here for 37 years. Had four kids in this house. You can imagine
the "stuff" we have. I kid my husband and tell him if he would go visit some-
one for a week or two, I would take care of everything!!!!!!! Good luck and
get out those garbage bags. I am jealous.

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answers from Tucson on

Thanks for the question, I struggle with this! I can sort my kid's things fairly well and pass things to friends, but I never make it to my things! I liked the tip about asking if you love it or not. I have read that most of us only use 20% of our "stuff". Good luck to you and (I need some too)


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answers from Houston on

If it hasn't been used in a year, toss it. If you have more than 1 or 2, toss it Like you really need 6 casserole dishes, right? (okay, maybe 3!) If it's a floral wreath or beanie baby or something with no very special attachments that just collects duct and takes up space, toss it. If you have fabric from 6 years ago that you planned on making curtains with, toss it. If it's an article of clothing that you haven't worn in a year, that the fabric doesn't still look great and isn't flattering and that isn't sentimental, toss it.

I'm going through this too and it's really difficult, so do one space at a time! Once it's in the goodwill/garage sale box... don't take it out. I have to stop myself from rummaging and rescuing things from my boxes.

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answers from Phoenix on

As a child of a long line of hoarders, I struggle with this as well. My therapist gave me a great idea. Break up the projects into doable chunks and right them on note cards. For example, one drawer per card and one section of the closet at a time. Put the cards together and just do one. If you do well and have time, do another. This has helped me tremendously. If you haven't used it in a year, then you probably won't use it and you can give yourself permission to let it go.

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